Luo river bridge - ( Image by Dr. Blog )

Capital of 9 Dynasties

This city can look back to a 4000 years old history. Its located in the East of Shaanxi Province (with Xian as capital) in the southern reach of the Huanghe (Yellow River) in Henan Province. This industrial town has 9 counties and 6 districts under its jurisdiction and covers a total area of 15208 square kilometers with a population of 6.10 millions.

In the urban area there a bit more than 1 million people living. Many tourists make stop here coming on a "short" sidetrip from Xian (6h) or Beijing (12h) to visit "Shaolin Temple" or the Longmen Grotto though due to its long history, there are many more sights to explore and even to research on.

Longmen Grotto

In Henan Province this is most probably the biggest attraction to be found 13 km (6miles) the south of Luoyang stretching over 1km of on the bank of the Yihe River. The area is covered by more than 2100 grotto niches, more than 3500 steles and over 40 pagodas containing around 100000 statues . The biggest and one of Chinas most popular photo motifs-"Vairocana Buddha"-also famed as “Venus in the East"- is 17m (56ft) in height. The grottos were constructed over a period of 400 years started the Northern Wei Dynasty (368-534)moved its capital “Datong” (where they created the Yungang Grottoes) to Luoyang in 494.

There are more than 2,100 grotto niches, 43 pagodas, 3,600 tablets and steles, and more than 100,000 statues. The biggest statue (from TangDynasty) in “Fengxian Cave” stands 17.14 meters tall with ear lobes measuring more than 2 metres and the smallest is only 2 centimeters. Creation of the Longman Grottoes is the peak of Buddhist grotto arts.

Unfortunately, many of the heads have been stolen or destroyed on the carvings or the gold was scrubbed off the statues (same happended in Dunhuangs Mogao Grottoes). No one really knows if the destruction is from western treasure hunters, Japanese invaders, or even the Cultural Revolution. The chinese government hasn’t declared this spot as a major tourist attraction yet, so its still easy to find cheaper accomodation

Opening Hours: All Year round 6am to 8pm, very crowded in summer months.
Admission Fee : 25RMB
From Luoyang railway station take bus No.81.

White Horse Temple

If you want to see Buddhist history than go to 1900 years old White Horse Temple (Bai Ma Si) that was built in 68AD and is considered to be the first buddhist temple in China and still today a place of active practicing. Among the thousands of Temples in China this one is respectfully called “No.1 ancient temple in China”.

Two white horses at the entrance are refering to the legend that tow monks from India brought the buddhist scriptures (Sutra Books ) to Luoyang coming on two white horses.

This place is much more calm than Shaolin and Guanlin Temple except during the Peony Festival. Not far from the temple to the east there is a 25 meters high pagoda with 13 layers, named Qi Yunta ( Reaching Cloud Pagoda) , which was first built in TangDynasty, this is an interesting place and worth to check out.

Admission Fee: RMB12 Take one of the minibusses coming from the railwaystation heading east of town.

Museum of ancient Tombs

This museum (Gumu bowuguan),opened in 1985, is located in the northern suburb of Luoyang covering an area of 8200 square meter, and contains 23 well restored ancient tombs dating from the Han dynasty (206-220BC) to the Northern SongDynasty (960-1127AD). In the later tombs you find some very nice Tang Pottery and several metal works, watch out for the famous frescos in the tombs. All these burial sites are found on Mang Hill (Mang Shan).

The Museum is located to the north of Luoyang city . Go to the railway station and take bus No.83. Its open from 8.30am to 5.30pm. Admission fee is 15RMB.

Shaolin Temple

Shaolin Si is about 70 kilometers to the east of the city in Dengfeng city area, facing mount Shaoshi with Mount Wuru behind. Shaolin its gaining its name from its surrounding, the “little forest”. It was built 495 AD in 19th year of Taihe in Northern Wei Dynasty when a Indian monk named Batuo preached there. In 527 AD, Dharma, the 28th generation disciple of Kasyapa the disciple of Sakyamuni, arrived through Guangdong, Nanjing and started to enroll students to learn the Chan sect here. Since then the Temple was widened and became famous as well. At the beginning of Tang Dynasty, the monks from the temple helped Li Shimin , the king of Qin Kingdom to successfully defeat Wang Shichong .

The geographical location of the temple in the Central Plains became a perfect place for retired generals, malcotents and refugees from the law . They came here for its atmosphere and of course not being asked about there origin. Most of those people though were already wushu experts therefore they could teach each other skills.

This temple was the first getting famous worldwide, last not least through the popularity of superstar Bruce Lee and his Kungfu (in chinese gongfu or wugong) Movies. West to the Shaolin Temple is the Pagoda Forest (Talin) where the former monks of the temple were buried. If you come very early in the morning or after 6pm (at that time you probably wont be charged the entrance free), you can get the spiritualism of this place.

Basic elements of Shaolin Wugong involve the hand, food, body and eyes. Hand movement should be somewhat between crooked and straight, but must be flexible. The eyes should focus on the enemy, anticipating your enemy’s intentions. The body has to be well balanced and pliant. The foot; light as a bird or heavy as a sledge hammer. Every movement is either an attack, defense or both. Feinting or real, it changes every second and is always unpredictable.

Peony Flower

In Spring there is a sweet smell over the city of the Peony Flower of which already 500 different varieties in colour and shape are listed. The history of its cultivation dates back over 2400 years. Inofficially its China’s national flower, much written about and million times being painted. The blossom is in April and therefore annualy held the Peony Festival between April 10th and 15th.

A good place to see these flowers, that are a symbol of good luck, is Luoyangs biggest public park “Wancheng Gongyuan”. You also find here some ancient buildings of the ZhouDynasty(1100-221B.C.).

The park is located on Zhongzhou Lu, in the east of the city. Bus No. 101 and 102 from the railway station take you there. The park open its gates from 8am to 6pm and entry fee is 4RMB.